Influencing the most powerful nations to invest in the power of girls

In focus: Girls' education and gender equality
As a member of the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council, GPE CEO Alice Albright will work alongside Nobel peace prize winners, global influencers, activists, diplomats, private sector and youth representatives to help prioritize girls' education and empower the next generation.

March 12, 2019 by Sinead Andersen, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat and Karen Schroh, Global Partnership for Education Secretariat
4 minute read
A young girl writes in her notebook at the St. Anthony Primary School. Guyana. Credit: GPE/Carolina Valenzuela
A young girl writes in her notebook at the St. Anthony Primary School. Guyana.
GPE/Carolina Valenzuela

“Educating the world’s girls will simply change the course of history”. These were the words of the Global Partnership for Education’s CEO, Alice Albright, as she assumed her new role on the G7 Gender Equality Advisory Council.

The fate of a girl born today in a developing country, or one affected by violence and conflict, is riddled with uncertainty. Will her family be able to afford to send her to school? Even if they can, will it be safe enough for her to go? Will she be forced to drop out, having been driven into early child marriage or as a result of sexual violence? Will she have to miss school every time she’s menstruating because of a lack of access to toilets and water? Will there be any female teachers to inspire her?  

Members of the G7’s Gender Equality Advisory Council are challenged to find solutions to some of these questions, which at their root represent the most persistent and pressing challenges to gender equality facing our generation, and the next.

The inaugural meeting of the Council took place in Paris last month and presents an unrivalled opportunity for progressing the prioritization of girls’ education worldwide; the Global Partnership for Education will support the French G7 presidency to implement and build upon Prime Minister Trudeau’s founding of the initiative in 2018.

“In the context of more than 130 million girls worldwide being denied the opportunity to go to school and many millions more in school but not learning, the privilege of being invited to sit on the Council is matched by a profound sense of responsibility”, Alice shared.

The Council will grapple with what stands between the unjust status quo of today and the gender equitable world of tomorrow. She continued, “it would be an unspeakable honor to stand in front of that same girl born today, full of questions about whether she will be able to enjoy her most basic human right to an education, in ten years’ time and to know that we were a small part of why she sits proudly in the classroom, dreaming of a future that she has the opportunity to make a reality”.

Education is a fundamental human right and is the best investment a country can make in its future.

Research shows that one additional school year can increase a woman's earnings by 10% to 20% and that universal secondary education could virtually end child marriage and increase lifetime earnings for women by US$15-30 trillion globally. It is, quite literally, in everyone’s best interests to unlock the potential of girls and women everywhere.   

A key part of the Council’s mandate will be to establish the legal impediments to gender equality and identify the promising practices that are helping to facilitate gender parity in public life – from schools to the work place. Alice impressed upon the Council the criticality of implementation of such laws and policies; addressing the systematic barriers that are holding girls back requires systematic solutions in partner countries that identify, address and eliminate gender biases.

In practice, this means:

  • More qualified (female) teachers – within school, the quality of the teacher is the single most significant determinant of learning outcomes and teachers can be the greatest contributing factor to promoting gender equality. Female teachers are important role models for female students in class, motivating and supporting them in their school work and showing them that women can be professionals and have careers beyond the family.
  • The elimination of sexual and gender-based violence in and around schools - the United Nations estimates that over 240 million children a year are at risk of school-related gender-based violence.
  • Running water and separate toilets for girls - a recent WaterAid and UNICEF report estimated that around one in three girls in many developing countries are missing school for days every month, in part because they have no privacy and are unable to wash their hands after changing sanitary products. 

Before departing, Alice met President Macron who agreed on the need for more female teachers if we are to establish a route to gender equality. Some basic measures could begin to address the inequality of opportunity that has become a pervasive feature of our world.

As a new member of the Council - among Nobel peace prize winners, global influencers, activists, diplomats, private sector and youth representatives - GPE will fight for every girls’ right to an education as the pathway to choice, freedom, opportunity, control and empowerment over her future.

So, as we reflect on International Women’s Day 2019, it is clear that meaningful change will only occur when girls have the agency to shape their own lives. By prioritizing girls’ education, the G7 have the power to empower the next generation - in turn transforming society as a whole.  

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Congratulations, Alice. What a wonderful place for you to be. I have been part of the GRAN organization for 8 years now, co chairing the Education Working Group and we have, as you know, focused our efforts on supporting the GPE and on concerns for grandmothers and girls in sub Saharan Africa and this news is just wonderful. We've known for so long that improving education for girls, as well as health, safety and security can indeed change the world and it is such a joy to see this kind of progress. Our group is now, in the interim between replenishments of the GPE, looking at ways boys and young men can be encouraged to put some of their energies into creating better relationships with women and girls, and are finding Promundo's efforts very encouraging. Once again, congratulations. I look forward to hearing reports of the progress of this new amazing group

I like your work and hope you always improve for more success

Good Work. I hope to you more success

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